DGP: How do asthma patients get through the winter well?

Pulmonologists recommend protective measures in the cold season

Many asthma patients are plagued by increased symptoms in winter. "Cold and damp, cold mist intensify the symptoms of chronic respiratory disease and can lead to shortness of breath," warn the experts from the German Society for Pneumology and Respiratory Medicine (DGP). However, they do have some tips on how those affected can get through the cold season as carefree as possible.

According to the different triggers of asthma, the symptoms can be particularly severe at different times of the year. For example, those who are sensitive to flowering plants have a more relaxed time in winter, while patients with animal hair or dust mites as a disease trigger can worsen symptoms in the cold season, reports the DGP. The experts recommend the latter some protective measures to prevent the increased occurrence of symptoms in winter.

Impending asthma attacks

"The chronically irritated bronchial tubes of asthma patients are more stressed when switching between dry, heated rooms and frosty air than at mild temperatures," explains DGP President Professor Dr. med. Klaus Rabe. This causes the bronchi to contract so that too little air gets into the airways. There is a risk of increased asthma attacks, in which the respiratory muscles contract and acute shortness of breath occurs. The British initiative recently launched Asthma UK in a special campaign to wear scarves over the nose and mouth to warm the air before inhaling, thereby reducing the risk of such an asthma attack in winter.

Consistently take medication

In its current communication, the German Society for Pneumology and Respiratory Medicine points out that if the lung function deteriorates in winter, asthma patients - after consultation with the doctor - can temporarily increase their medication dose. However, it is important "that the prescribed medication is really taken consistently and not only when needed," emphasizes Prof. Rabe. Asthma is treated with an appropriate basic medication (aerosol to expand the bronchi) and an anti-inflammatory inhalation spray. To ensure successful therapy with the inhaler, the expert recommends training in how to use the device. "Studies show that two out of three patients use their inhaler incorrectly, which reduces the success of treatment," said Rabe.

Protection against respiratory infections

The experts also recommend that patients with asthma or other chronic lung disease prepare their immune systems for the cold season. Because colds and respiratory infections affect asthma patients more often and more severely than healthy people, vaccinations against flu or pneumococcal infections may be appropriate. If symptoms of a cold appear, Prof. Rabe advises an early visit to the doctor because "early treatment, for example with inhaled cortisone, may prevent an exacerbation".

Basic information

Despite the cold outside temperatures, asthma patients should ventilate their rooms regularly, the DGP experts emphasize. Furthermore, it is important to drink enough and to pay attention to a healthy diet. Alcohol should be avoided or only consumed in moderation and smoking should be avoided entirely. Last but not least, moderate outdoor exercise can also help improve lung function and increase the threshold for an asthma attack, according to the DGP experts. (fp)

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